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The eldest gel brought home a form from her new school regarding the Fairfax County Family Life Education curriculum for 5th Grade.  This year, the subject is “Human Growth and Development”.  Most of the lessons seem to have to do with basic reproductive anatomy, the physical changes of puberty, and so on.  However, the last one is devoted to “The Benefits of Abstinence from Sexual Intercourse.”

Jesus, Mary, Joseph.  I’m all for teaching abstinence (albeit I believe it has to be done at home in order to be effective at all),  but these are ten year olds.  As they say, “Why are we even having this conversation?”

The form itself is, in fact, an opt-out request, allowing parents to yank their kids from one or more of the lessons.  I don’t really have a problem with the basic biology sections, but the more I think on it, the more inclined I am to nix the last one.

Britons may be more vulnerable to AIDS due to Roman invasion:

Researchers found that people who live in lands conquered by the Roman army have less protection against HIV than those in countries they never reached.

They say a gene which helps make people less susceptible to HIV occurs in greater frequency in areas of Europe that the Roman Empire did not stretch to.

The gene lacks certain DNA elements, which means HIV cannot bind to it as easily and is less able to infect cells.

People with the mutation have some resistance to HIV infection and also take longer to develop AIDS, reports New Scientist.

A study of almost 19,000 DNA samples from across Europe showed the gene variant seemed to dwindle in regions conquered by the Romans.

Generally only people in Europe and western Asia carry the gene and it becomes much less frequent as you move south.

More than 15 per cent of people in some areas of northern Europe carry it compared with fewer than four per cent of Greeks.

It is not clear why this is so since the spread of HIV – which began in the early 1980s – is too recent to have influenced the distribution of the variant.

The difference in frequency of the key gene mutation reflects the changing boundary of the Roman Empire between 500 BC and AD 500.

But study leader Dr Eric Faure, of Provence University in France, does not believe the Romans spread the regular version of the gene into their colonies by breeding with indigenous people.

Dr Faure, whose findings are published in Infection, Genetics and Evolution, said: “Gene flow between the two was extremely low.”

Instead he believes the Romans introduced a disease to which people carrying the gene variant were particularly susceptible. As the Romans moved north this disease killed off people with the variant gene that now protects against HIV.

Interesting, although of course it’s only a theory at this point.  Nonetheless, stand by to see the history books rewritten to show that Caesar practiced genocidal germ-warfare by having his troops sneeze on the natives.  (Although as a matter of fact, classical historians themselves already do describe such practices.  I believe Livy, for example, recounts several incidents during the Punic Wars of the water supplies of besieged towns being poisoned by means of herbs or rotting corpses.)

Here’s a question for you: Why is it that the Indigenous Peoples of Olde Europa – the various tribes scattered about Iberia, Britannia, Gaul and Germania (and Italy, for that matter) – never get the same sort of Noble Savage mantle bestowed by the Romantics and their modern descendants on the peoples of the Western Hemisphere?  I have certainly read plenty of history describing (and sometimes decrying) the Roman treatment of, say, the Trans-Alpine Gauls, but never do I recall anyone idealizing those Gauls or claiming that theirs was a veritable Garden of Eden before the Legions appeared.  And yet, from an anthropological point of view, I don’t suppose that they were really all that much different from their brethren across the Ocean.


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